SALEM — Getting the record? That was the easy part for Isaiah White.
Getting the victory? That was much tougher for he and his Beverly Panther teammates.
Host Salem fought the Panthers for the full 48 minutes on a bitterly cold morning at the new Bertram Field. But thanks in large part to White’s 163 yards rushing — allowing the BHS senior captain to become the school’s all-time single season rushing leader — and three touchdown runs, the Panthers prevailed, 20-6, in the 115th playing of “The Game.”
“It’s great,” said White, who finished his senior season with 1,782 yards, 26 touchdowns and 158 points. “Ending it the way it’s supposed to be ending and getting the win against Salem, your arch rival ... you can’t get no better than that.”
Beverly (7-4), which leads the all-time series 57-51-7, prevailed for the eighth time in the last 10 meetings by scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter, then riding a stingy defense, led by senior defensive end Zach Duguid’s dominant play up front, to victory.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound White broke ex-Panther standout Greg Pierce’s previous record of 1,648 yards rushing in 2007 with a 3-yard jaunt on the game’s opening series; on the very next play to scored on 4th-and-goal from the Salem 1-yard line. Matt Madden’s extra point gave Beverly a 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.
White’s second TD, a 2-yard run on 3rd-and-goal on the final play of the first quarter, doubled Beverly’s lead to 14-0. The final tally of his career came early in the third quarter when, following a Salem punt into the wind that travelled minus-6 yards, he ran for 8 yards, then 13 more through a hole on the left side to make it 20-6.
“I was just trying to get the win; the record would come,” said White, who had 2,644 yards rushing and 29 touchdowns in just two seasons at Beverly High after transferring in from St. John’s Prep prior to his junior season. “If you break the record but lose to Salem ... I didn’t even want to think about that.
“Our linemen really stepped up; they started moving kids up front and I was able to exploit the defense,” he added.
“Those were some hard yards he had today,” Beverly coach Dan Bauer said, noting White had a season-high 32 carries. “But this is a senior game. Isaiah shined, as he has all season, and the line in front of him played well, too. I’m just really proud of him.”
Despite trailing for all but the game’s first two minutes and two seconds of play, Salem (2-9) was never really out of it. In fact, the Witches got inside the Beverly 10-yard line on three different drives, but came away with zero points as a result.
“Against a team like Beverly you have to put some points on the board there,” admitted Salem head coach Scott Connolly. “Defensively we made some big plays and gave our offense a chance (to score), but aside from that one (Aaron Palmer’s 20-yard scoring run around left end late in the second quarter), we weren’t able to.”
Connolly’s nephew, senior captain and quarterback Austin Connolly, ran for 106 yards and threw for another 73 while Palmer had 72 more on the ground. But Salem hurt themselves offensively with penalties, a dropped pass in the end zone and missed blocks.
“We bent but never really broke,” said Bauer of his defense, “and that was important because of those opportunities that they had (down by the goal line). The Salem kids played their butts off, as we knew they would.”
All 316 of Beverly’s yards offensively came on the ground. Aside from White (who also had a fumble recovery), Madden glided through the Salem defense for 84 yards on just seven carries while fellow sophomore Peter Mulumba chewed up another 59 yards on eight attempts.
A year removed from their unbeaten Super Bowl season and minus 27 seniors from that team, finishing the 2013 season with another victory — their seventh in nine games since starting 0-2 — was satisfying for the Panthers.
“The thing with Thanksgiving is that it’s such a big game and there’s so much emotion that guys can sometimes press more than they need to instead of just doing their job,” said Bauer. “So at halftime we just said, ‘We’re winning the game, so relax and just play your game.’ And they did.
“There’s so much buildup to this game, not just during the season but for their entire lives.”
Beverly 20, Salem 6
at Bertram Field, Salem
Beverly (7-4) 14 0 6 0 — 20
Salem (2-9) 0 6 0 0 — 6
B-Isaiah White 1 run (Matt Madden kick)
B-White 2 run (Madden kick)
S-Aaron Palmer 20 run (kick blocked)
B-White 13 run (kick failed)
RUSHING: Beverly — Isaiah White 32-163, Matt Madden 7-84, Peter Mulumba 8-59, Joey Kozlowski 2-10, Christian Miller 4-8, Bryan Flaherty 2-(-8); Salem — Austin Connolly 16-106, Aaron Palmer 24-72, Genrri Rosario 7-37, Peter Slattery 1-11, Josh McRae 1-(-12), Shakir White 1-(-13).
PASSING: Beverly — Nick Manthorne 0-2-0-0-1; Flaherty 0-1-0-0-0; Salem — Connolly 8-17-63-0-1; White 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING: Beverly — None; Salem — White 2-19, Anferne Jiminez 1-17, Christian Costa 1-15, Palmer 3-12, Rosario 1-0.